For exclusive Scottish tours, email or visit my website.

Tenth Century Church Carvings, England

Sunday, February 28, 2010

This afternoon, I have decided to feature some unusual, possibly 10th century, stone carvings from the Church of St. Helen's, Bilton-in-Ainsty, Yorkshire, which I recently visited. These unusual carvings can be found in the Lady Chapel of this church which has origins dating back to Saxon times. Being of possible 10th century AD date, the carvings could be from the Viking era. The vertical stone immediately above may have been the shaft of across. This and the other stones may have been re-used as grave-markers at various times. I find these carvings pleasantly primitive and striking. In their day they were intended to convey messages at a time when most of the population would have been illiterate and Christianity a relatively new introduction.

Elsewhere today, I have been busy:

  • Designing a new web page for my main catswhiskerstours website.
  • Responding to various tour enquiries (one confirmation).
  • Posting information to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog on Brown family history.
As regards the ancestry blog, in the case of one posting, this has turned into a message board for an extended family of descendants now residing in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. Its pleasing to see the blog functionality being used in this way.

Weather in Glasgow today is cold but dry with vestiges of snow lingering on in sheltered spots.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 7:13 AM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Tour Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland

Saturday, February 27, 2010

This morning, I went off to visit the stunning Burrell Collection in Glasgow. In total there are some 8,000 objects which were assembled by a former shipping magnate names Sir William Burrell. This unique and wide-ranging collection was donated to the City of Glasgow by Sir William and Lady Burrell in 1944. The collection comprises paintings, sculpture, tapestries, ceramics, stained glass, furniture, silver, metalwork and objects d'art from many time periods.

The collection can be categorised as follows:

Ancient Civilisations: Art and objects from Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Greece, and Italy.

Oriental Art: Chinese ceramics, Chinese bronzes, Chinese furniture, Chinese jade and, Japanese prints.

Central Asian Embroideries.

Near Eastern Ceramics

Near Eastern Carpets

Medieval Europe: sculpture and church art, tapestries, stained glass, lace and domestic arts.

Decorative Arts: silver.

Arms and Armour

European Ceramics





Paintings: early paintings, Dutch and British paintings, the Hague School, French paintings.

Prints and Drawings


Below is provided images of a selection of items from the Collection.

The Thinker by Rodin (Bronze).

Furniture from the 17th and 16th centuries.

Rhyton (drinking horn). This is 4th century BC and emanates from Southern Italy.

Official from Ming Dynasty-AD 1609.

Caucasian carpets-17th and 18th centuries AD

Kimberley Throne, English 1578. Velvet with applied gold and silver tissue.

Stained glass from Cathedral of Notre-Dame, about AD 1280.

Transplanted room from Hutton Castle, former residence of sir William Burrell.

Amphora from Greece dated 550 BC. Attic figure in black.

Warwick Vase. This is 2nd century AD Roman and was found at Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli.

Portal and door from Hornby Castle, Yorkshire. 16th century AD.

This is an excellent and world-class collection located in the south part of Glasgow. Entrance is free.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 6:34 AM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Alne Church, Yorkshire, England

Friday, February 26, 2010

This evening, the focus of my blog is on the historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Alne, Yorkshire, England and in particular the ancient Viking and Norman carvings which attract a lot of visitor interest.

There has been a church on this site for about 850 years. The current church has many interesting facets but I am going to focus on just three which are discussed and illustrated below.

Firstly, there is the massive 12th century stone font which is still used for baptisms. This close up shows the classic Green Man image which may relate to a pre-Christian natural deity. Note the branches or vines sprouting from the mouth.

Here is the font.

This image shows shows a lintel over a Anglo-Saxon era priests door. The well worn carving may well be from the Viking era.
Finally, this video clip shows the Norman era carved arch over the main door. This is very significant and attracts many visitors. The carvings represent beasts from the Bible although there are also some secular ones.

Elsewhere, the weather today in Glasgow has proved quite miserable and not conducive to getting out for pics. However, have received quite a number of interesting private tour enquiries which I am hopeful will convert to committed tours.

Posted to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog information on McLean family history. Also did some more work on my main website.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 2:15 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Images of Glasgow, Scotland

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This morning started damp and wet with a good layer of snow and more snow forecast. I had the idea of going into Glasgow Centre to obtain some images of George Square covered in snow, but such was not be as upon arrival there was no snow to be seen. However, took the opportunity to walk around and take some interesting pictures of Glasgow which are discussed below.

Here is an aspect of Central Station, Glasgow's largest, which dates from 1876-79 with a viaduct added in 1901-6.

This is a gateway to the Merchant City, once an area where tobacco merchants reigned supreme in the 18th century and now home to upscale shops such as Armani and Ralph Lauren. Many of the buildings date back to the 18th century and are attributed to famous architects such as Robert Adam.

Former bank building designed by Elliot and Black in 1820s and 1830s.

Inside Gallery of Modern Art. This building is of architectural interest as was once a mansion house built by the wealthy trader William Cunninghame in the late 18th century.

Another display in the Gallery.
Duke of Wellington Statue which is located outside the Gallery of Modern art. This was erected by Baron Marochetti in October 1844.

One of the twelve statues in George Square. Whilst walking on Glasgow Green in 1765 James Watt had the inspiration to improve the efficiency of the newly developed steam engine by using a separate condenser and a steam jacket.

This is Glasgow City Chambers ( City Hall) which houses the largest local government authority in Scotland. This is a grand building dating from 1888 which reflects Glasgow's status at the time as second city of the British Empire.

Statue of Robert Peel. He was Prime Minister 1834-5 and instituted the modern police force. He was also Rector of Glasgow University from 1836-8.

Atop this very high plinth is a statue of Sir Walter Scott, famous novelist of the late 18th/early 19th century . He wrote the Waverley Novels, Kenilworth and much more. The plinth was originally designed for a statue of King George III but this monarch lost favour with the Glasgow elite due to a combination of intermittent madness and loss of the American colonies which impacted severely on the trade of the Glasgow tobacco merchants.

The following two pics show Queen Street Station which is noted for its fine, flat arched roof and dates from 1842.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:28 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Highland Cattle Scotland

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You scratch my neck and I'll scratch yours!

Here's looking at you, kid.
This afternoon, heavy and persistent snow curtailed my activities. I hear that many roads around Scotland are blocked or restricted. We are certainly having a tough time this winter! Certainly glad I am not out touring in this weather.

Notwithstanding the snow storm, I decided to get out on my bike and photograph specimens of a very photogenic herd of Highland Cattle. These animals are docile and allow photographers to get close without so much as batting an eyelid. It could be this particular herd is very used to humans gawping at them.

Although not immediately evident, the above pics were in fact during a snowstorm and it will be noticed that the animals' coats are damp. However, Highland Cattle are extremely hardy and will thrive in harsher conditions than today. In fact, they are an ancient and hardy breed which emanate from the Scottish Highlands and Islands; they are hardy grazers and live out in all weathers. Apart from Britain/Scotland this breed is popular in Australia and North America. I do understand they are not particularly efficient as beef animals due to their relatively slow rate of growth vis-a-vis more modern beef breeds.

In the course of my private, Scotland tours I usually come across a herd or specimen somewhere. Small herds are usually kept near grand houses or castles to attract visitors.

Here is a video clip of a herd closer to their natural habitat in Glen Nevis, near Fort William in the Highlands. Great little beasts!


posted by Catswhiskers @ 9:30 AM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Icy Cold in Glasgow, Scotland

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This morning, we experienced continuity of another cold spell. As the skies were clear I went out to a local park to obtain a few pics from nearby Rouken Glen. Below are some chunky icicles close to a waterfall and below that are a couple swans navigating around the ice on their frozen pond. The cold weather is forecast to continue with heavy snow for the Shetland Islands and temperatures as low as minus 15C in the Highlands.

Most of the day I was preoccupied with tour related matters including:

  • Detailed itinerary for a group tour scheduled for September.
  • A short tour of Perthshire in June.
  • A Whisky Tour.
Ancestry Research: This is an interesting sideline for me. I posted information on Morrison family history to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog which, sadly, recorded the deaths of three young children at a major rail accident in Yorkshire in 1913.

Website: Working away with additional and replacement content.

Plan to have an early night tonight as may have a cold coming on!


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:14 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Anglo-Saxon Carvings, England

Monday, February 22, 2010

This evening, my focus is on an Anglo-Saxon era ( AD410-1066) carving which is located above the altar at the Church of the Holy Redeemer, York. See image below. During this period Christianity became firmly established in England. These sort of carvings would have had a combined propaganda and teaching role at a time when most of the population would have been illiterate.

This 1960s era church was built using materials and carvings transported from the demolished St. Mary the Elder Church at Bishophill which results (see this video clip) is an unusual but effective juxtaposition of 1960s and 12th century interior design which seems to work well.

Elsewhere today, I have been busy arranging various tours of Scotland. I also paid a visit to a nearby cemetery and found a memorial stone recording the deaths of 3 children in a major railway accident dating from 1913, at Ais Gill in Yorkshire, which resulted in a total of 14 fatalities.

The weather here in Glasgow has remained clear and dry but very cold, probably around freezing for most of the day. More cold weather forecast!


posted by Catswhiskers @ 1:55 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Images of Eaglesham Moor, Scotland

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This morning I was motivated by crisp, clear visibility with good sunlight to venture out to the highly elevated Eaglesham Moor, south of Glasgow, with aim of obtaining images of the City of Glasgow bathed in the sunlight. However, this did work out quite as I had hoped, principally due to the low elevation of the sun at this time of year. However, my trip was not entirely in vain as I did manage to secure some reasonable images of other vistas.

Firstly, I should mention that Eaglesham Moor has two main claims to fame,viz:

  1. It is where the Nazi leader, Rudolph Hess crash landed on May 10th 1941 in context of a hair brained scheme to end World War 2.
  2. It is the site of Europe's largest wind farm.
The top of the moor is usually wet and boggy but was frozen firm today which aided my mobility.

Here is an aspect of the wind farm showing the frozen ground surface.

Here is a view of Glasgow.

Another, view of the wind farm.

Frozen hillocks with wind turbines in background.

This shows the wind farm BUT the shadow in the foreground is deceptive. It is actually Dunwan Hill, an ancient site, originally thought to be Iron Age but more likely a high status homestead of the first millennium AD. I have climbed this hill in the past, when the terrain was very wet underfoot.

Another view of Glasgow reflecting the sunlight.

Finally, the image at top of this post was an accidental shot of some clouds-which turned out quite nice.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 9:14 AM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Nunburnholme Cross, Yorkshire, England

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This evening, my theme is the Nunburnholme Cross, one of many such ancient carved crosses I encounter on my travels around Scotland and England. More on this below. First an update on today:

Glasgow Weather: Bright, dry but very cold with temperature at or below freezing for most of the day.

Tour Arranging: Very busy with a whole range of new tour enquiries, which is nice. Spent more time adding micro detail to a 2 week round Britain self-drive tour which I am arranging.

Ancestry Research: Posted information on Thomson family history to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog. Interestingly, one of the family actually died in the Chilean seaport of Valparaiso.

Nunburnholme Cross: Now for the interesting bit! This is a stone cross with carvings on all four sides straddling the late Saxon, Viking and Norman periods and as such is of great antiquity and interest. It was discovered during 1873 building work in the church of the same name, it was incorporated into the church porch but subsequently damaged by the iron fittings which held it in place. It was effectively cut in two but reconstructed the wrong way round. Very briefly:

  • Two sides are Late Saxon with focus on the Virgin Mary and Christ. See image above.
  • One side appears to be of Viking era date and may depict a local Viking lord plus a scene form the Norse Sigurd story which features a dragon .
  • The remaining side is a mixture of both Viking and Norman.
A video clip of the Cross can be found here. Fascinating!


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:54 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Tour York Minster, England

Friday, February 19, 2010

This evening, I am posting images of York Minster, a famous Cathedral located in Northern England.

Christianity in York dates back to Roman times but can be traced for certain from AD 625 under Bishop Paulinus. The current building dates from 1080-1110 under the Norman archbishop Thomas of Bayeux. This building was subsequently modified, extended and embellished on numerous occasions, viz:

  • 1220- present building begun.
  • 1253-north transept completed.
  • 1291 - work on nave begun.
  • rebuilding of quire and east end over period of 250 years.
  • 1407 - central tower partially collapsed
  • 1829 and 1840 saw two serious fires.
  • 1967 witnessed start of 5 yr rescue operation to stabilise the building.
  • 1984 witnessed another fire which destroyed roof of the south transept.
This is a truly magnificent building which is also a popular visitor attraction receiving a million visitors each year. It is also possible to climb up the tower for a helicopter view of the Minster and York .

Astronomical Clock dedicated 1955

Famous Rose window restored after the 1984 fire.

Vaulting over the nave

Processional Cross, 1912

Clerestory Windows

Chapel of St. John
South Quire Aisle

Flying buttresses on exterior
View from the Tower


posted by Catswhiskers @ 1:40 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Tour Jorvik, York, England

Thursday, February 18, 2010

This evening I am posting images and a record of my visit to Jorvik, a major visitor attraction in the City of York in N.E. England.

York was first a major Roman military garrison and civilian settlement names Eboracum. After the departure of the Romans in the early 5th century the Anglo-Saxons arrived and then the Vikings, invaders and immigrants from Scandinavia, took control during the period AD866-AD1066. The Roman settlement named Eboracum evolved into Yorvik, and ultimately modern day York.

During building work and excavations from the 19th to mid 20th century it became progressively evident that a major Viking settlement existed at York with particularly good archaeology evident in a site located between Coppergate and Castlegate. ( Note that the word 'gate' derives from a Scandinavian word meaning road or street, not a barrier. Also, Coppergate is a corruption of cup making, not metal working. )

To protect and display the archaeology a major attraction called Yorvik was developed some 25 years ago which takes visitors through a time warp into the Viking community with authentic smells, representations of daily life and activities such as antler working, iron working, amber working, wood turning and house building.

The Vikings had a great influence on British language, culture and place names. Study of this era features in the educational curriculum for schools and as such Yorvik has attracted some 16M visitors since opening.

Here is a genuine Viking era shoe
Here are Viking era combs. These were high status possessions maybe costing about USD500 in today's money as each had to be individually made from animal bone.

This lady is selling drinking horns and shields.

This man is visiting the 'wash room'!

Market stall
Couple talking
Treating skins and hides
Wood turner
Overall, this was a good experience which I would recommend to others interested in our Viking heritage.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 11:41 AM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Tour Harrogate, England

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This evening I am posting a record of my recent visit to the spa town of Harrogate in Yorkshire, northern England. Mineral waters were discovered here in 1571 subsequent to which the town rose to prominence as a major Spa destination in Britain, attracting many wealthy patrons. However, later in the 20th century scientific developments surpassed the need for water treatments and the baths were closed for medical use in 1969. However, there is a strong legacy of times past and Turkish Baths are still in operation.

Here is the front of the former Royal Baths building which dates from 1897 and now houses a Chinese restaurant.

This is the front of the intriguing Royal Hall which dates from 1903 and has recently benefited form a GBP10.8M restoration programme. See this video for an appreciation of the stunning interior.

This is the Royal Pump Room which also a museum. It was built over the Old Sulphur Well which produces water quite safe to drink but was once known as the 'Stinking Spaw'. A taste of this water lingers on the palate for a considerable time!

This is a tap producing free sulphur water for anyone who wishes it.

This is the former Magnesia Pump Room which in its day dispensed water rich in magnesium.

This is the Bogs Field which contains a total of 36 mineral wells, all producing separate and distinctive waters.

Victorian era shopping area which includes the popular Betty's Cafe.

Interesting iron work outside Betty's Cafe with War Memorial in middle distance.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 1:57 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Viking Saga and Song Night, York, England

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This evening I attended a very well presented and authentic evening focused on the theme of Scandinavian food and drink at York's medieval Barley Hall parts of which date from about AD1360.

The Scandinavian theme was in recognition of York's Viking origins, between 8th and 11th centuries.

The event was fully subscribed (about 35 attendees) and hosted by the 'Jarl of Jorvik'. Food comprised a first course consisting of potatoes, meat and bread followed by a fruit pie (apple, blackberry and rhubarb). Drinks included mead, country wine and local beer. All of this was a reasonable approximation of the diet of the first millenium.

Entertainment was provided by two very accomplished musicians using replica instruments and regailing saga style stories of the Viking gods, drinking songs and songs from the Scottish Orkney Islands (which have a strong Norwegian culture). Instruments included bagpipes, flute, drum and harp. This was not a tacky event for tourists.

The medieval venue added an extra dimension providing attendees with the flavour of an evening, social event with low lighting provided mainly by candles-not ideal for photography-and hence poor image quality below.

Overall, an authentic and memorable experience which I would recommend to others.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

- Posted using


posted by Catswhiskers @ 3:16 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Tour Roman York, England

Monday, February 15, 2010

Today, I was able to indulge my passion for the Roman era via a tour of Roman York in N.E. England.

York was established as a major centre of Roman Britain in the first century AD by the Ninth Legion and later the Sixth Legion. Between AD 208 and 211 York (Eboracum) was actually the epicentre of the Roman Empire as during that time the Emperor Septimus Severus was based there during his campaigns in what is now Scotland. Despite the successive occupations of York by Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans and then the medieval era, there remain visible signs of the Roman occupation as summarised below.

At Bootham Bar is one of York's medieval city gates which stands on the site of an entrance to the Roman fortress.

A small piece of Roman fortress wall exists at St. Leonard's Place.

In the Museum Gardens is the Multangular Tower the lower levels of which incorporate Roman work.

The Roman Bathouse under a pub in St. Sampson's Square. Nearby is a great stone-built sewer (under Church St.) which served the baths.

Junction of the Via Praetoria and Via Principalis at Minster Gates. (No actual archaeology evident.)

Roman column (8m high) originally found under the tower of York Minster (Cathedral) and now erected opposite the south door of the Minster.

Remains of the east corner tower of the Roman Fortress at Aldwark. This is best viewed from the vantage point of the medieval city wall.

Line of the Roman fortress wall between Monk Bar and Bootham Bar along which runs the subsequent medieval wall.

Harkers pub in the city straddles part of the Praetorian Gate site. In the pub basement can be found masonry which formed part of the Gate structure.

Overall, a great day for Roman aficionados like me.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 10:39 AM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Historic Church Tour, Yorkshire, England

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Today, I enjoyed a fascinating tour of five churchyards which were selected with a common theme of links with the Viking era (AD 793-1066) and located within a 20 mile radius of York City. Each of these churches is summarised below.

Kirk Hammerton: A relatively intact church dating from end of the Anglo-Saxon era. This was built in Romanesque form and may have utilised (re-cycled) materials from local Roman era buildings. The architecture features round arches and small windows. In its day the interior would have been dark and dingy, aggravated by smokey tallow candles. The tower, which features a double splayed window at the top, may be later than body of the church. A wonderful gem of a church.

Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Alne: The key features here are:1.Decorated lintel over small, priests door may date from the Anglo-Saxon or Viking eras.2.External archway over main entrance dates from mid 12th C. A complicated and literate work made during a settled period. Carvings influenced by the Book of Beasts which describes a natural history of animals in context of God's plan for the world. Each of the beasts exhibits different behaviours.3. A 12th C font with heavily carved decoration including a 'green man'.

St. Helen's, Bilton-in-Ansty with Bickerton: Key features here are the carved stones (inside the Lady Chapel) which may have been the shaft sections of 10th C era crosses and subsequently used as gravemarkers. One depicts three children in a firey furnace.

Church of the Holy Redeemer: A fascinating building dating from the 1960s but incorporating much architectural material from the demolished church of St. Mary Bishopshill Senior, York. Key features here are:1. Late 12th C archway.2. Anglo-Saxon era carving incorporated in a feature above the altar.

Church of St. James, Nunburnholme. Key features here are:1. The interior arch which is something of a conundrum and has probably been moved from its original position; it dates from 1100 to 1140 AD.2.The Anglo-Saxon cross which is considered the finest sculpture of its type in East Yorkshire. In the past it has been split in two and then reconstructed the wrong way so the carvings are not aligned. On top of the shaft is a socket into which a cross head would have fitted. The carvings are complicated and date from various periods including Late Saxon, Viking Age and Norman. A picture of this cross against background of the arch is shown below.

- Posted using


posted by Catswhiskers @ 2:45 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Viking Europe

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Today, I enjoyed an illuminating learning experience at a very well organised one day conference at York University, England culminating with an exclusive viewing at the famous Jorvik Viking era reconstruction.

The conference programme covered:

-The origins and impact of Jorvik (Viking York).
-Viking Dublin, Ireland.
-Viking Orkney, Scotland
-The Trelleborg Viking Fortress at Trelleborg, Denmark.
-The mystery of the skeletons of two females in the Oseberg burial ship, Norway.
-Uncovering Jorvik, Viking era city.

In the evening, delegates enjoyed exclusive access to the famous Jorvik experience which entails a ride on gondolas through a reconstructed Viking era York. This attraction is very well presented with staff very much on top of their subject. Glad I was able to bypass the extensive queues for this attraction.

The image below is of a couple of reenactment Vikings who are genuine to the extent they actually come from Scandinavia.

Overall, an excellent day which has served to greatly improve my knowledge and understanding of this specialist topic.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

- Posted using


posted by Catswhiskers @ 1:33 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

York Minster, York, England

Friday, February 12, 2010

This evening the focus of my post is York Minster in York, following a short visit earlier today. This is a truly stunning building of major historic significance.

The name Minster is a derivation of Mynster which is an Anglo-Saxon name for missionary church.

The current cathedral is located on a very historic site dating back to Roman times, specifically the Roman Principia where Constantine may have been proclaimed Emperor in AD306. Saxon and Viking grave markers have also been found.

A Norman Cathedral was commenced 1080 with further extensions and embellishments in1160AD (new eastern arm), 1220 (South Transept commenced),1270 (North Transept), 1290 (Chapter House), 1340 ((Nave),1373 (Lady Chapel) and 1470 (Central Tower).

The Minster suffered fire damage in 1829, 1840 and 1984.

From an architecture perspective,the building includes Early English Gothic, Decorated Gothic and Perpendicular Gothic.

I hope to undertake a more detailed visit of the Cathedral and climb the 275 steps up the Central Tower to avail of the spectacular views over the City and Vale of York. Should prove good exercise and burn a few caleries up!
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device


posted by Catswhiskers @ 1:24 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Old Kirk Alloway, Scotland

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My blog continues with an underlying Robert Burns theme with special emphasis this evening on the Auld Kirk at Alloway (Old Church at Alloway). Before going into details I will first cover off other developments of the day, viz:

  • Posted information on Collie family history to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog based on information at Glasgow's Necropolis.
  • Pleased to see that my new web page for Robert Burns has appeared on my Catswhiskerstours website. Burns is Scotland's national poet who grew up in the Alloway area, maybe an hour south of Glasgow. Very pleasant countryside too!
  • Weather in Glasgow is about par for time of year. Surprisingly dry but still cold with some ice about.
  • Reverting now to my blog theme. A ruined church (Kirk) in a small village in Ayrshire does appear an unusual topic BUT the poet Robert Burns was a great fan of this site on three principal accounts: (1) He buried his father in the kirkyard (see image at right) (2) Burns persuaded his friend Francis Grose to include it in his Antiquities of Scotland publication and (3) the Kirk was the inspiration for Burns famous tale Tam o'Shanter.
The actual site may go back to early Christian times around the 6th century but the current building dates to at least 1516 and possibly the 13th century. By the early 1700s the building had fallen into disrepair and despite some attempts of restoration it has been ruin for about 300 years. There are many interesting and ornate gravestones on the kirkyard including Burns father, his younger sister and two nieces. In Tam o'Shanter, Burns uses a kirkyard scene of witches and warlocks dancing reels and jigs to the tune of bagpipes played by the devil himself. One witch, Nan, almost succeeds in catching Tam at the nearby River Doon; although the witch is thwarted at the last minute she does make off with the tail of the horse, Meg.

I can image that this ancient kiryard would indeed present an eery experince on a dark night.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:47 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Bachelors Club at Tarbolton, Scotland

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This evening, my theme is the Bachelors Club which was closely associated with the poet Robert Burns. Firstly will address other developments of the day, viz:

Glasgow Ancestry: Posted to my separate Ancestry blog information on MacCallum family history from information at Glasgow's Necropolis. This also includes the surnames Pettigrew and McDougall. Interestingly, the name Pettigrew means one of stunted growth or a dwarf.

Glasgow Weather: Dry, but cold. Maybe a degree or so above freezing during the daytime.

Website: Spent most of the day researching information for a new Scotland tours web page which I have now finished and sent to my web manager for action.

Bachelors Club, Tarbolton: The building shown in the above image is located at Tarbolton in Ayrshire, maybe 15 miles from Robert Burns birthplace at Alloway. The Bachelors Club was formed by the poet Robert Burns, his brother Gilbert and five other friends as a debating society for the amusement and interest of young men who were 'a professed lover of one or more of the female sex'. In reality the club was a platform to enable Robert Burns to improve his debating and public speaking skills and a step in Burns self-improvement agenda. Burns was in initiated as a Freemason in the Club in 1781. The building is now a museum.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 1:30 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Burns Room at Globe Inn, Dumfries, Scotland

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

This evening, my theme is Robert Burns at Dumfries. However, will first cover off the day's developments:

  • Ancestry Research: Posted to separate GlasgowAncestry blog information on Stewart family history from Glasgow Necropolis.
  • Glasgow Weather: Dry most of the day but cold (around freezing this evening).
  • Scotland Tours: Responded two new private tour enquiries for small groups. Finalised quote for a large group tour in the Autumn/Fall.
  • Website: Spent a few hours researching and scripting a new web page which has now been sent to my web manager for inclusion in the main, Catswhiskerstours website.
Now to my theme this evening which is the Burns connection with the Globe Inn at Dumfries. Robert Burns had a long connection with Dumfries. He moved to the town in 1791 and died there in 1796. Dumfries boats the highest concentration of Robert Burns memorabilia ( sites, stones, relics, statues and busts, etc) anywhere in the world. In particular the Globe Inn is closely associated with the poet and today it is possible to visit the Burns Room, a dark, panelled room containing Burns Chair and other Burns era items including ceramics and engravings as shown in the above image.

Burns wrote the following grace for meals at the Globe:

O Lord when hunger pinches sore,
Do thou stand us in stead,
And send us from thy bounteous store
A tup or weather head!

It was at the Globe Inn that the first ever Burns Supper was held in 1819.

In the late 18th century, Dumfries was a vibrant commercial centre and emigrant embarkation port rivalling Glasgow in importance.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 1:10 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Dunvegan Castle, Skye, Scotland

Monday, February 08, 2010

This evening, my blog theme is historic Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye (above). Will go into details later but in meantime will address today's developments:

You Tube: Had an unusual comment posted to my video clip of Raby Castle in England. This seemingly emanates from a self-confessed poacher who bagged some of the deer in the castle grounds.

Ancestry Research: Posted to my separate Glasgow Ancestry blog information on the Hill family, one member of which is actually buried in Ashkum, U.S.A. (1858).

Glasgow Weather: Dry but getting colder.

Tour Arranging: Close to finalising a few days of private tours from Edinburgh for a visiting group in June. New enquiry in for group tour of the Highlands later in the Fall/Autumn.

Dunvegan Castle: My theme tonight focuses on a press report of major restoration work planned for Dunvegan Castle which is Scotland's oldest continuously occupied property dating back 700 years and home to the Chief of Clan MacLeod.

It appears that Dunvegan Castle suffered a fire in 1938 the repair of which was 'sub optimal' and now requires further attention costing GBP1.1M. This cost is to be funded GBP598k from Scottish Government Agency, Historic Scotland , GBP100K from an organisation called Highland Opportunity with the balance coming from the MacLeod Estate.

First phase of the building work should be completed by End 2010 but the entire project could take 25 years to final completion.

In 1739 MacLeod of Dunvegan hit on a novel fund raising concept by selling a significant number of his people to South Carolina as indentured servants. More recently (2003), the Clan Chief wanted to sell the Black Cuillin mountain range (on Skye) in order to cover the cost of repairs to the castle but the sale appears not to have been concluded. I have to award the Chiefs of Clan McLeod 10/10 for innovative financing ideas worthy of a hot shot hedge fund manager!


posted by Catswhiskers @ 1:11 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

West Highland Railway Line, Scotland

Sunday, February 07, 2010

This evening, my theme is the famous West Highland line which has just been voted as the world's greatest rail journey for a second time.

Before going into details of the rail journey, I will first cover off daily developments, viz:

Glasgow Ancestry: Posted to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog information on the Lowndes family at Paisley, Scotland.

Glasgow Weather: Dull, mild and overcast but basically dry.

Arranging Tours: Corresponded with various clients in regard to tours which are in process of finalisation. Responded to enquiry from Germany for a group seeking a DVD of a Highland Games for which I recommended they visit the Braemar Gathering website. This evening I will be attending to micro details of a lengthy self drive tour of England, Scotland and Ireland.

West Highland Line: Over the weekend the press reported that this journey from Glasgow to Mallaig, covering 164 miles, has been voted (by readers of Wanderlust magazine) as the world's greatest rail journey, even surpassing the Trans-Siberian Express and the Orient Express. I have personally undertaken this rail journey a couple of times and am not sure if I am as enthused as the Wanderlust readers. The journey is slow with many stops, refreshments average and the carriages not exactly state of the art. On the plus side, views are stunning IF you obtain a window seat on the appropriate side of the train and the weather is fine.

The West Highland route takes in Loch Long, Loch Lomond, Loch Etive and Loch Eil. For passengers interested in engineering,the line crosses the world's first concrete rail viaduct at Glenfinnan. Glenfinnan is where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in 1745 in an ultimately doomed attempt to wrest back the thrones of England and Scotland for the Stewarts. This is also one of the best locations to view the famous 'Harry Potter' steam train as it trundles over the bridge as per this video clip.

During the summer months, the Jacobite Express ( aka 'Harry Potter' train) operates a regular steam train service on part of the West Highland route, between Fort William and Mallaig, which is extremely popular with families because of the Harry Potter connection. Here is a video clip of the train as it winds its way up from Fort William.

In course of my tours I travel this route by road many times, particularly on the way to/from Isle of Skye. Lots of photo opportunities!


posted by Catswhiskers @ 9:19 AM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Tour of University of Glasgow, Scotland

Saturday, February 06, 2010

This morning, I first visited Glasgow Necropolis to obtain information for my separate GlasgowAncestry blog. I always this burial ground a fascinating place whose memorial stones provide a fascinating insight in to Victorian Glasgow which at the time was powering ahead and aspired to status of second city of the (British) Empire. It is mainly the wealthy elite who could afford memorials and they record a wide range of business activities from cotton manufacturer to railway contractor to merchant (seemingly a catch all term for businessman) to traders with the West Indies-plus many more categories.

After the Necropolis I journeyed over to the West End to fulfil a long-standing ambition to tour Glasgow University, one of Scotland's oldest and most prestigious universities. Tours are provided every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As no one else turned up I had benefit of a private tour albeit shortened because some of the main buildings were in use for various functions. However, I did obtain a good overview of the site.

Glasgow University had its origins in a Papal Bull issued in 1451 at which time the University was established in the (then Roman Catholic) Cathedral. It seems strange to me that some 900 years after collapse of the Roman Empire it was order from Rome that established an educational establishment in Scotland.

The University prospered and moved to premises in the High Street which in time became unsuitable and triggered a relocation to the current purpose built site on Gilmore Hill around 1860. The buildings were designed in neo Gothic style by English architect, Gilbert Scott who, unfortunately, died just prior to completion. (This was the same Gilbert Scott who designed the iconic British red telephone box which is still in service today.)

The University celebrated its quincentennial anniversary in 1951.

This image just part of the impressive iron gates at the Gilmore Street entrance. The design incorporates names of famous alumni which includes the famous economist Adam Smith.

This is the front of the building facing Kelvingrove. The entrance is medieval and was transferred from the former High Street site.

The following two images plus this video clip show the inner courtyard including the 1929 Remembrance Chapel.

Another transfer from the old site in the High Street. This is the Lion and Unicorn stairs which date from 1690.

Here is a closer view of the two beasts, which appear to have weathered well despite Glasgow's climate.
This was a useful tour. It seems that visitors are free to wander round the main areas without prior arrangement or restriction. I will have to return in the summer because the site is elevated and offers good views of Glasgow (for photographs).


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:33 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Burns Monument, Alloway, Scotland

Friday, February 05, 2010

This evening, my blog theme is the monument to Robert Burns. Before embarking on that subject I will first address other developments today:

Ancestry Research: Posted information to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog on one John Lowndes of Paisley.

Glasgow Weather: Dry and relatively mild.

Tour Enquiries: An extremely busy day:
  • Arranged a one day tour for an extended family from the U.S.
  • Worked on details of a private tour for a U.S. couple.
  • Had confirmation of a one day tour from a cruise ship.
  • Responded to enquiry for a private, family tour of Scotland in the summer.
  • Responded to a very interesting enquiry for a Roman Britain themed tour. (One of my key passions!)
  • Responded to enquiry for a one day tour for a large Spanish speaking group.
Burns Monument: The monument to Scotland's national poet was opened in 1823. The site was chosen because of the (then) spectacular view of Burns Cottage (birthplace), Alloway Kirk (burial place of Burns father) and the Brig o'Doon.

The monument is a 70 ft high circular temple built to a Grecian style by famous architect Thomas Hamilton. The monument comprises nine pillars representing the nine Muses of Greek mythology, sitting on a three-sided base evoking the three historic divisions of Ayrshire: Kyle, Carrick and Cunninghame.

Inside the monument can be found a marble bust of Burns (see above image).

The interior of the monument is open to visitors who can climb half-way up to the base of the pillars and from that viewpoint view the River Doon, the Carrick Hills and sometimes the Firth of Clyde.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:28 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Burns Cottage, Alloway, Scotland

Thursday, February 04, 2010

This evening, my Blog theme is the cottage where the famous poet, Robert Burns was born on Jan 25th 1759. Before moving to that I will first cover off the day's developments:

Scotland Ancestry: Posted information to my GlasgowAncestry blog on Pinkerton family history as sourced from a memorial at Paisley Abbey.

Glasgow Weather: Slightly warmer than yesterday which resulted in a progressive melt of the thin layer of snow. Damp but with little rain.

Tours: Spent most of the day working on the minutiae of a couple of tours: one self-drive and the other a private tour to be provided by me during April.

Burns Cottage: Now to my theme for the evening. The cottage shown above and below dates from 1757 when it was built by one William Burnes as his first family home. Here their first child and eldest son, Robert was born on Jan 25th 1759. Robert subsequently reached status as Scotland's national poet with over 600 poems and songs written and gathered by him during a relatively short lifetime.

Because of Burns' fame his birthplace became a tourist attraction from an early date. It is a traditional 'but and ben' design with accommodation for family, livestock plus storage space. The cottage has been restored to the condition pertaining during the period of Burns early life. This video clip provides a view of the interior.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:02 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Brig o' Doon, Scotland

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

This evening, my theme is the famous Brig o' Doon (Bridge over the River Doon) at Alloway, Ayrshire which has close connections with Scotland's national poet Robert Burns and on which more is provided below.

First a Catswhiskers new summary:

Glasgow Weather: Bitterly cold with temperature below freezing for the last 24 hours. This evening, we have a light layer of snow.

Ancestry Research: Have just posted to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog information on McKechnie family history obtained from information at historic Paisley Abbey.

Tours of Scotland: Worked on two new tours: An American family requiring a day tour from Edinburgh and large group from Sweden requiring a whisky themed tour.

Brig o' Doon: My theme this evening is the famous bridge over the River Doon which dates from the Middle Ages and become a famous landmark consequent on Robert Burns using the bridge as the setting for the climax of the poem Tam o' Shanter which is the story of a farmer from nearby Maybole who gets into trouble due to fondness for women and drink. At the end of the story Tam is chased by a group of witches and warlocks and makes a narrow escape on horseback via a heroic leap for the keystone of the bridge in course of which a witch grabs the horses tail which is ripped off leaving the stump as a salutary reminder of the dangers of drink and women.

"For Nannie, far before the rest
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle!
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain grey tail;
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump."

This video clip shows the bridge and its surroundings including the nearby Burns Monument.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:30 PM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Tour Dundonald Castle, Scotland

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

This morning I ventured out to Ayrshire to undertake research for an upcoming new web page. On setting out I had to navigate through a snow storm but after midday the weather was transformed into blue sky and sunshine.

On the way home I paid a visit to a very impressive castle which is situated close to the Ayrshire coast, south of Glasgow, namely Dundonald.

The site benefits from a high elevation and such dominates the local landscape and provides views out to Ben Lomond ( 40 miles away) and the Firth (estuary) of Clyde and Isle of Arran.

Archaeological evidence indicates the site was occupied prior to 2000BC while a Dark Age fortress on the site was destroyed by fire before 1000AD.

The current fortification dates from the 1370s following rebuild of an early castle dating from around 1260.

Dundonald Castle was associated with the (Royal) Stewart family from inception until it was sold to the Cathcart family in 1482 and then subsequently the Wallaces and Cochranes. Chief architectural feature of the castle is the medieval, barrel-vaulted ceiling.

An appreciation of the castle and its environs can be found by viewing this video clip.

Below is an image of the first snowdrops I have spotted this year, found in Alloway.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 8:49 AM  0 comments


Post a Comment

Roman Fortlet at Lurg Moor, Greenock, Scotland

Monday, February 01, 2010

This evening, I am indulging my passion for Roman Britain with a report on my recent visit to Lurg Moor, a somewhat desolate hill high above Greenock, a port in the west of Scotland on the River Clyde.

In addition to Hadrian's Wall, the Romans built a second wall in Britain which was known as the Antonine Wall and named after the Emperor, Antoninus Pius who ruled 138-61 AD. This Antonine Wall was used from about AD 142 to the early 160s. It ran from Carriden in the east of Scotland (near Edinburgh) to Old Kilpatrick in the west (near Glasgow). To protect the western flank of the Wall the Romans built three small 'fortlets' south of the River Clyde at Whitemoss, Lurg Moor and Outerwards in Ayrshire.

Lurg Moor is the best preserved of the three fortlets and now consists of a rectangular grass-covered rampart 43m by 49m with a height of one metre. There is a well preserved surrounding ditch which is some 2m lower the highest point of the rampart.

Access to the fortlet is something of a challenge as there is no trail or signage. I had to navigate over barbed wire fences and were it not for the freezing temperatures the ground underfoot would be very wet and boggy. Fortunately, I was able to locate the fortlet together with the remains of a nearby hut circle dating possibly from 1000BC or later. This landscape was occupied from the earliest times of human occupation in Scotland.

Because of their antiquity, the hut circle and fortlet have very low profiles in the landscape and not easy to photograph.

This is an aspect of the hut circle circle which may date from the Late Bronze or Early Iron Age. This shot shows details of what appears to be a double wall.

This is a broader view of the hut circle remains. I was able to locate it because in the centre is a twin posted electricty pole.

This view as taken from the Roman fortlet with Greenock and the River Clyde below. This video clip gives a better appreciation for the Roman site.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 9:58 AM  0 comments


Post a Comment